Gorim woke up the next day to find himself in a regular room, with doors and windows. It was cool in the room, unlike his oven-like acolyte cell. He was also in a bed. All of his life Gorim had slept on a wooden sleeping platform. He never had sheets or blankets, because the novice and acolyte cells were always so hot.
He looked out the open window, and felt the cool breeze on his face. Judging from the view, he was at the top of the school. On the table beside him was a steaming bowl of broth and a cup of water He sat up and tipped the bowl to his lips. “Slowly, Brother,” said Kirik, sitting in the chair beside him. Gorim was so startled, he sloshed the hot broth down his chest. Immediately, he saw the soup rise off his chest and flow back into the bowl, and a cooling sensation in his chest.
“Thank you, Master Kirik,” said Gorim. The title was just part of Kirik’s name.
“You are no longer bound by the rules of the school, Gorim. You are a member of the brotherhood, the same as me, I am no longer your master, I am now your brother.”
“Haros?” said Gorim. “Did he make it?”
“Brother Haros was in his trial for nineteen minutes. As soon as his Acolyte’s charm was off, he started toying with fire. He is dangerous, but proved he had the necessary control. I was worried about you. You stayed in your trial longer than anyone in the history of the brotherhood. I’ve been waiting for you to wake to ask how you survived the thirst.”
“I created water from the elements in the air.” An odd look crossed Kirik’s face as Gorim answered.
“Where did you find the raw hydrogen?” Kirik looked truly puzzled.
“I split doubles to combine with Oxygen,” replied Gorim. “Why?”
“No one since Jento has been able to split paired hydrogen and survive. How did you control the pressure of the separation? Could you do it again?”
“Everyone can’t do that? I’ve been doing it since I was a novice. Reinforce spirit with stone then flow it around the elements as they split.” Kirik paled at the thought of a novice blowing up the entire school.
Gorim thought about the implications. “So, how do you make fire?”
“Combine sodium and water. Sodium leeches from the mortar between the stones in the trial room. How…” Kirik paused. “How did you do it?”
Gorim could have slapped himself, it’s so simple. How had he not figured that out? “Brother Kirik, I would like to see Haros. Is he around?”
“Haros was given his orders last week. He is in Gento, guarding the gateway,” Kirik said, standing to leave.
“How long until my orders come? Could I go see him one last time, to let him know I survived?”
Kirik stroked his long beard. “It usually takes about a week. If you were up to walking tomorrow, you could go for a short time. You are a brother, you’re free to roam as you choose when you’re between orders.”
Gorim sat up again, and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “Take it easy, Gorim. You need to build your strength back.”
“I will,” he replied. Once again, Gorim picked up the bowl of broth. “Thank you, Kirik.”
“You’re welcome, Gorim,” Kirik replied, stepping out the door. Gorim drank the broth, and felt better. He thought about what Kirik said, and wondered, if people couldn’t split bonded hydrogen, he didn’t dare tell Kirik that Gorim had split a hydrogen element in half. Gorim needed to get to the library, and he needed to talk to Haros.
A few minutes after his broth settled, Gorim got up. His legs were a little shaky, but he made it to the door, and spoke his command. “Haros.”
The door opened to the hallway, and Gorim walked into the empty hall. “Haros,” he spoke again, opening the door to the library. The massive library was one of the wonders of the world. All the combined knowledge of humanity was stored here. Thousands of shelves holding millions of books. It smelled of old leather and parchment; Gorim breathed in deeply, almost feeling like he could inhale the wisdom in the room. Huge mahogany tables dotted the aisles. Priceless works of art adorned the walls, and sculptures of all sizes and shapes were spread liberally throughout. In the far corner of the study, the bones of a giant beast were reassembled and hanging from the ceiling. Nearest to Gorim was a statue of a naked woman balanced on a perfect stone globe, straddling a huge crack in the world. The sculpture wasn’t painted, rather the stone itself was of different hues, blended perfectly, almost as if each element in the statue were individually placed. Gorim longed to reach out with his spirit and explore the statue, to examine it’s construction and learn all of it’s secrets. A gold plaque at the base said “Shaqual Cracks the World.”
All of Gorim’s life he’d heard the rumor of a wilder that split the world creating the strait. Here she was, real. The Brotherhood even knew her name, and what she looked like. Before his trial, Gorim would have said he was well versed in the knowledge of the world. Three minutes in the Library of Wuden and he realized what he knew was but a single drop in the strait.
The wall to Gorim’s left held a fireplace so big it must burn whole trees. The wall opposite that held an enormous tapestry. From his brief glance, it looked like the history of the world.
An older woman approached Gorim. “Ahh, Gorim! What are you doing out of bed? You should be resting!” He was certain he’d never seen her before, and this was the first time he’d ever been in the library. All of his mentors had spoken of it, but novices and acolytes weren’t allowed. “The library is wondrous, isn’t it? I remember the first time I came here; the feeling of being minuscule.”
“I am well. And yes, that is the feeling that I have. I really would like to learn about hydrogen. Could you direct me to books of that subject? Also, I’m sorry, but I don’t know your name.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. My name is Lenka. I’m the librarian.” She stuck her hand out, and Gorim shook it. “Hydrogen is an element, so it’s with the elements. And, with only one attractor, it will be first in elements. What about hydrogen are you looking to learn?” She seemed genuinely interested.
Gorim was careful. He didn’t know the rules quite yet, what he was interested in was dangerous. But he was a brother, Kirik had said they were the same. After some thought, he decided to lay it out. “Is it possible to split combined hydrogen?”
“Dear me, no. The resulting explosion would rip your spirit apart. There was a rumor of a mage shortly after the sundering, Jento was his name. It was said he was able to do it several times, but ultimately, the history books say Jento went mad. There is a crater in the southernmost province. You learned about Jento Lake?”
“That’s why his name sounded familiar,” Gorim exclaimed. “I remember our lessons talked about Jento Lake for days. We didn’t learn about any other lake, and they never told us how it was formed.”
“Jento blew himself up trying to split a single hydrogen atom. He had some crazy idea that he could create a source of infinite power.” Lenka was dismissive of the whole thing. Gorim knew he’d done it, but he couldn’t put his finger on why he was so afraid to tell someone.
“Could I read more about Jento’s work? The lake always intrigued me. Now that I’m a full brother, I’d like to know the whole story. It’ll give me something to ground me while I recover.”
Lenka started walking and talking, “Sure, Gorim. You know, when you came here, all those years ago, I was the one that tested you. You have more spirit than any pupil we’ve ever had. You are clearly destined for greatness. I have watched over you your entire career here.” Gorim felt a little dizzy. The knowledge he’d gained in the last few hours was staggering, and he needed some time to process it. “Here’s the book you’re looking for. Don’t try any of this though!”
“I promise I won’t replicate Jento’s work,” replied, taking the book. “Thank you. I hope I live up to your expectations.” Gorim managed to make it out of the library before the strength left his legs. He walked the short distance down the hallway to his room and entered. He was ecstatic to find a full dinner laid at the table in his room. Gorim sat in the chair and started reading as he devoured the food laid out for him. Gorim read late into the night. Jento spent his life trying to accomplish what Gorim had done instinctively. He fell into a fitful sleep, and dreamed about eating.
The next morning, Kirik was back when Gorim woke. “How did you find the library to be? Wondrous, isn’t it? I spend much of my free time there.”
“It is an amazing collection of knowledge. And Lenka was so kind.” Gorim was genuinely touched to know that she’d been watching him all these years.
“You made quite an impression on a lot of us. Someone like you comes along once in ten thousand years,” Kirik replied. “It has been my honor to guide you. Brother Yunse has expressed the same. It is in that vein that I must implore you, please do not experiment with hydrogen. It will only lead to an early demise. I am no longer your master, but brother to brother, I beg you.”
“I made a promise to Lenka not to replicate Jento’s experiments,” Gorim said.
“Deceit does not suit you, Gorim. You are an honest boy, consider staying that way.” Kirik paused for a moment. His face wasn’t angry, Gorim knew it came from a place of concern and caring, albeit a much more direct message than Kirik usually delivered. “I see the loophole in your statement; It isn’t replicating Jento’s experiment if you are successful. But imagine the tragedy if you are not. I mean no offense. I only want to help you.”
“Give me your hand, brother Kirik. I’d like to show you something.” Gorim had watched others work in this fashion often, it was the primary means of instruction in the finer points of weaving. He hadn’t ever led the bond before. Gorim extended his spirit over Kirik, enveloping him. He searched the air for a hydrogen pair, and wrapped them up. He flowed his spirit down to a super fine edge. “Can you see this?”
“How do you control so much flow?” Kirik seemed genuinely puzzled.
“I don’t know. I just see what needs to happen. Now, you have to watch the attractors. Can you see them?”
“Through your link I can. I cannot see them on my own. This is remarkable. Please do not go any further.”
Gorim ignored his mentor, feeling his curiosity. “When they’re in alignment, you slip in between them. At the same time, reinforcing the spirit between them with stone. Gorim split the hydrogen pair into it’s component elements, contained the energy and absorbed it. When it was complete, he was left with two single hydrogen elements.
Kirik let go of the connection abruptly. Gorim found an oxygen element and bound it to the un-paired hydrogens before releasing them. When Gorim refocused on his old teacher, he saw the man wide eyed with fright. “If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would never believe it. So much of what you just did by instinct is impossible. Everything we know. No one… No one can do that.”
“I didn’t know it couldn’t be done. I just needed water. I did that millions and millions of times in the trial to make enough water to keep myself alive.” Gorim was trying to pacify his former mentor now. Kirik looked at him like he was insane.
“The brotherhood must know about this. We must tell them. You have made history!” Kirik started to get up. “What I saw through your link was so much clearer than my own sight. As if I was looking at the world through cataracted eyes. There is so much you can accomplish, with guidance and patience. And so much that could go wrong without guidance.”
“Kirik, please. I’m not ready to show anyone else yet. I just wanted you to see that it could be done safely. I am worried about what will happen to me if people find out. I don’t have any frame of reference. I’ve just always been able to do it. I promise, when the time is right, we can go to the Brotherhood and tell them. But first I need to find myself. I need to learn.” Gorim was practically pleading.
“I will respect your wishes. Please do not continue this line of research until we can find the proper scholar to guide you.” Now Kirik was pleading.
“Who would guide me? Even after I showed you, you told me it was impossible. How could anyone guide me in that research? I give you my word, honoring my years of study under you, I will not do that until we speak again. That is the most honest promise I am able to give you.” Kirik nodded.
“I believe you. We will figure this out together. The power you wield. It is… It boggles the mind. And, you never told me how you made fire,” Kirik stated as he left the room. There really was no getting anything past him. Gorim would have to remember Kirik was much quicker than he thought. He had an entirely new level of respect for his mentor.
Gorim found breakfast on the table, and hungrily devoured his food.